“Mr. Julien never wanted to be put on a pedestal or in the limelight for his support of Grady County youth, he simply loved sports and young people, especially the Syrupmakers,” said fellow Grady County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Ralph Jones. Though he never threw a block or a pass for the Syrupmakers, he was, without a doubt, the single most important part of the foundation of Syrupmaker sports and youth activities. From academics to the arts, agriculture and athletics, Julien Bostwick Roddenbery was always a “soft touch” when it came to helping Grady County young people.
“Mr. Julien” was also an exceptional athlete himself. Roddenbery played baseball for Cairo High School from 1907 to 1910, and baseball, tennis and basketball at Mercer University from 1911 to 1913. He was captain of the Mercer basketball team in 1911-1912. His “on the field” accomplishments made him one of the first 15 members of the Mercer University Athletic Hall of Fame. Roddenbery also organized and coached the “Cairoga Club” basketball team in 1921.
In addition to building the family business, the W.B. Roddenbery Co., into a regional giant, Mr. Julien always had a place in his heart for Grady County youth. Credited with erecting Cairo’s first gymnasium, Roddenbery helped finance two music buildings on the Cairo High School campus and financially supported hundreds of young people with scholarships, equipment and much more. Roddenbery established the A.E.R. account to fund the needs of young people in the arts, academics, agriculture and athletics.
Former CHS principal Tim Helms said, “There was never a time in my career that if I asked Mr. Julien to assist and help students attend a summer football, band or literacy camp, that he did not graciously give funds to help our kids.” Through Mr. Julien’s donations and help throughout the years, hundreds of young people saw their dreams come true, including most of the people currently in the Grady County Sports Hall of Fame or being inducted this year.
“I was one of the many young people he invited to go with him to attend their first college campus or sporting event. Mr. Julien had the wisdom to realize that the athletic arena was a perfect classroom for teaching life skills, and the lessons learned on the athletic field were instrumental in developing a better citizen and a strong community,” said Ralph Jones.
Mr. Julien valued academics along with athletics and spent his life giving young people the chance to excel in both. Not only did he contribute untold amounts of money and time to athletics, Roddenbery bought textbooks and established many scholarships to allow Grady County young people a chance to receive a high school diploma and to realize a college education was a possibility for them.
The “Syrup Pitcher” trophy was created and donated by Mr. Julien in 1953 and, to this day, is still given to the winner of the Cairo-Thomasville football game each year. Roddenbery faithfully attended many Cairo High School sporting events for most of his life and was quick to tell anyone who would listen about the great battles between Thomasville and Cairo throughout the years. Roddenbery would describe in great detail events from CHS athletic events some 30-40 years earlier.
Former Grady County School Superintendent Cecil McDonald said, “Many young people benefited from the generous donations of Mr. Roddenbery and he never asked for anything in return except to see a good game played and enjoyed by young people in Grady County.”
A claim he denounced, many people credit Mr. Julien with the Syrupmaker name itself. CHS teams were named Tigers until the late 1940s. The late coach West Thomas, also a Hall of Fame inductee once said, “There is a tale that Mr. Roddenbery gave out caps with ‘Syrupmakers’ on it during a rainy game and writers picked up on it, but Mr. Roddenbery always denied it though.”
Whether true or not, Mr. Julien will always be synonymous with the Syrupmaker name. “Mr. Julien was the most diehard fan I’ve ever known, he will always be “Mr. Syrupmaker” to me,” said retired CHS principal Wayne Tootle.